Sunday, 10 November 2013

NCAD Calls for Acknowledgement of Dublin 8 as ‘Leading Cultural and Creative Quarter’

The National College of Art and Design (NCAD) has called on government to acknowledge Dublin 8 as a leading cultural and creative quarter.  The College made the call at a major international design conference, taking place in Dublin 8 this week.

Over 200 design experts from 50 different countries are attending the Cumulus Dublin conference, hosted by NCAD.  Cumulus is the International Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media, of which NCAD is a member. 

Opening the conference today (08.11.13), Professor Alex Milton, NCAD’s Head of Design, said the lead role played by Dublin 8 in Ireland’s creative economy must be officially acknowledged. 

“Dublin 8 is home to many traditional design and arts practitioners and, more recently, has attracted a high concentration of digital and creative SMEs,” he said.  “International visitors come to the area in high numbers, not just for the local tourist attractions, but also because of the quality of the arts, design and cultural experiences on offer.  Furthermore, the rich historical heritage of The Liberties provides a powerful platform for contemporary design and creative learning in general. 

“Official acknowledgement – from both local and national government – of Dublin 8’s lead role in Ireland’s cultural and creative economies would be a sign of the Government’s intent to really prioritise these industries.  In order to compete internationally, we need to start proactively showcasing and promoting our creative and cultural talent.”

According to Professor Milton, Ireland lags behind its main competitors when it comes to prioritising and stimulating the creative economy strategically. 

“Some of our closest neighbours – like the UK and Holland, for example – are far ahead of Ireland in terms of prioritising and stimulating creative industries,” he said.  “In the UK, the creative industries are worth more than £36 billion a year; they generate £70,000 every minute for the UK economy; and they employ 1.5 million people.  The reason they’re thriving is because the government there is proactively supporting these industries through financial incentives, promotion at home and abroad, and reducing unnecessary regulations.  In Ireland, we need to do likewise. 

“Culture and our creative workforce are central and recurring elements of IDA campaigns encouraging companies to do business here.  But, to really give weight to this claim, we need to do more in the domestic context to promote, stimulate and showcase our creative industries.  We need to face up to the fact that we’re never going to compete with low-quality, mass-produced products.  Instead, we should prioritise and promote excellence in design, and stimulate expertise in niche areas.  To do this, we need to build ‘design thinking’ and visual literacies into our education system from an early age, and we also need to learn from our neighbours in terms of what they’re doing.”

Professor Milton said poor design choices had been made during the Celtic Tiger years, but that ‘design thinking’ has a significant role to play in Ireland’s economic recovery.

“In this era of austerity, we need to acknowledge the important role design can play not only in our recovery now, but in ensuring the mistakes of the past don’t recur,” he said.

“Ireland has paid the price for poor design thinking and choices during the Celtic Tiger years.  The legacy of that is evident across all sectors – from poorly-built apartment blocks to poorly-designed public services, and an emphasis on consumerism that has led to a ‘quantity over quality’ mentality. 

“Now, in this period of resetting and not simply recession, it’s vital that crisis be turned to opportunity – that we learn from our mistakes and prioritise ‘quality over quantity’.  Ireland has the talent, the cultural and educational institutions, and the historical legacy to become a world leader in the creative industries and learning.  But we must work to stimulate and promote our creative economy now.”

The theme of the three-day Cumulus Dublin conference is ‘design in an age of austerity’.  Keynote speakers at the event today included the visionary German designer Werner Aisslinger and NCAD graduate Paul Adams, who played a lead role in creating Google+ and is a former global head of brand design for Facebook. 

The Cumulus conference runs until tomorrow on the NCAD campus and in nearby venues.  It coincides with Dublin Design Week (4th to 10th November).  The full conference timetable is available at: